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Posts from the ‘Britain’ Category

… with great love

The world feels particularly alarmed at the moment.  The U.S are afeared at what their election will bring given that one candidate is a proven loose cannon  and the other a proven liar.  Last week a woman who I knew for a short while as a colleague was savagely and barbarically shot, kicked and stabbed to death whilst going about her work as a Member of the British Parliament, serving constituents who had elected her for her talent and energy and goodness and days before that a twisted maniac massacred 49 innocents just being themselves in a Gay nightclub in Orlando.  Today my country of birth opted by a slender margin to exit the European Union and exercise it’s right to navigate the world in splendid isolation.   All of these things are quite shocking to digest.  I need not and will not comment – my opinions are of no interest to those taking the time to read my words but I do have something that I hope might strike a different and more harmonious chord.

I am currently in France having been whisked here by a circuitous route to delay my guessing the destination by HB² (my husband) so that we could spend our wedding anniversary in the place we were married three years ago.  Today I am sitting at my table in the place I call home.  My world is rosy.  I am fortunate.  This week along with the delightful, other things have happened in my personal life that could certainly anger me, engender hatred and lead me to feel that the best thing is to curl up in my cave and live my life as a strange old hermit (complete with splendid false beard).  But being the cussed optimist that I work at being, I know that I am better placed and better off endeavouring to find value in the way things are trying to effect other lives as decently as I can.  Last week, the extremely lovely  @Turtleway whose beauteous blog you will find here graced me by beginning to read every post I have ever written.  This is either brave or foolhardy but in any case  remarkably flattering.  She asked me in response to a post I wrote about Oradour sur Glâne in France, which was the object of a genocide in the dying days of WWII how we can avoid hating when we come across atrocities.  Which we do almost daily with modern news transfer being as rapid as it is and Social Media rampantly passing on the attrocious and the marvellous in an entirely unfiltered manner.  I thought for some days before I replied and then I said this:

‘The first thing I must say is that I understand hatred. But it was my youngest daughter, then aged about 10 years old who asked me to stop using the word ‘hate’ because, she said,  we should never actually hate anyone or anything.  By definition it is a cankerous emotion. She is now 21 and her views have inevitably become a little less pure but she remains true to the essence of what she said. For my part, I feel that hating and being angry are well and good but that they don’t resolve anything, they do not bring back the dead, they do not comfort the bereaved and they do not heal the wounded. In fact they probably feed the perpetrators. And I refuse to grace wicked, evil people with anything that might make them feel anything other than the odious bile that they have become. So I try instead to count my own good fortune and to understand what I can do to help. I am a highly emotional person by nature and tend to ricochet between highs and lows without warning. My own balance is maintained by seeking out the good in every situation and by attempting to not fuel the fire with a whirlwind of anger but rather to damp it with the dew of decency. Different people use different mechanisms. I must stress that I am not perfect. I feel anger and rage and bitterness and fury and sometimes I let those feelings begin to tarnish my insides. But I try to remain mindful and conscious and to take a beat and if necessary many many beats whilst I get to a mechanism that can quash the negatives and allow the positive energy to release so that I can be of some use. This is not forgiveness, this is not excusing this is simply trying not to become dissolved by fury and outrage but rather to evolve by maintaining a stance of dignity and warmth of spirit.

The world we live in is full of hatred.  Today Social Media is positively crackling with rancor and bitterness or exultation and self-congratulation depending on which side you take at the result of the self-proclaimed ‘Brexit’ vote.  It turns into yet another reason for people to sling mud.  I choose not to.  I urge others to join me.  I hope one day you will.  And to paraphrase John Lennon, the greatest of pacifists, the most gifted of men, diabolically slain so many years ago by a twisted soul, maybe, just maybe one day the world will live as one.’

Here are two little beetles simply working together, spreading their beetle love and working as partners to further beetlekind.  This ties in nicely to the photo challenge this week of which  here you can find lots and lots of far more admirable examples  And yes, using a picture of beetles when referencing a Beatle is entirely deliberate.

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PS:  The quote comes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta – ‘None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.’

I’m an instant star … just add water

I often take part in the wordpress weekly photo challenge but sometimes I just don’t feel moved.  Claudette whose lovely blog is titled ‘To Search and To Find’ with the strapline ‘happiness in every day’ writes beautiful words and takes wonderful photographs and decided to invent something called Emotography and post an example every week.  I commented that it is a delightful idea (whilst also commenting on the beauty and pathos of the first example titled ‘Forlorn’) and she said that she would like other’s to get involved.  So I am and I hope you will too.  Just post a picture and write about the emotion it conjures in you and link it to Claudette’s site.   I’m certain that many of you who I interact with would enjoy this, get value and give value by participating.  There are no rules, you don’t have to commit to every week, just when the mood takes you, share.  It feels rather good to me.

So to mine … this is a picture taken the day after my daughter’s wedding last August when she and her friends were having a recovery party and my husband and I opted out and went instead to Stourhead just down the road from the venue for a recuperative walk.  Stourhead was one of my father’s favourite places – he loved the trees, loved trees in general (I wrote about his love once before, just here) and he was amused by the temples which you can see one of across the water.    For me, I just love the water and the reflection and the clouds, those very English clouds and the whole thing evokes nostalgia for England, for summer and mostly for my dad who loved the place – so I give you my first Emotograph ‘Nostalgia’ …

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PS:  In the week of David Bowies untimely passing, I’ve pinched his words for my title.  When speaking of stardom he said ‘I’m an instant star – just add water and stir’.  Let loose from his last illness I hope he’s kicking some stardust in Heaven.  With my dad.

He digs and he delves – you can see for yourselves

It’s been a while since I wrote anything more than a few lines to accompany a picture but – now there’s a thing … have I been away, or have I been home?  I think here is home so I must have been away but then again I was staying with my mother and spending Christmas with family so I must have been home because my definition of home was always where my family is.  And Two Brains made it by the skin of his teeth on Christmas Eve arriving 3 hours before we all sat down to Christmas Dinner which we do on Christmas Eve partly because we realised that one of our daughters was eating three Christmas dinners on Christmas Day and had to remain dry because she and her partner were driving to his mother, then his father and then me and then home (possibly to a turkey sandwich) and another has a fiance whose mother would fall on her own sword if her precious boy were not at her Christmas table (I say nothing) and partly because 25th December is Two Brains birthday.  So the simple solution is to follow the French lead and that is what we do leaving everyone, in theory, happy.    Anyway, enough familial bliss – I was in England.  Land of my birth.  And increasingly less familiar to me … I wonder if other ex-patriots experience this out of body-ness when visiting the old country, wherever that happens to be.

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I lived for years close to various points on the Ridgeway and walked regularly on the section from Streatley-on-Thames to Uffington.  When my parents moved to the place my mother still lives, I walked sections of it each weekend with my father and our dogs.  I have walked it with children, with friends, with dogs.  It is a very familiar path.  Two Brains and I and two dogs, because The Bean’s best friend Brian who belongs to my eldest daughter was staying too, walked a bit each day.

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Brian – a small dog with the sweetest heart

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The Bean – a tiny dog with a big heart

We walked somewhere between 6 and 12 km each time (the distance being un aller-retour, a return, to allow for leaving the car).  I wanted to walk this path full of memories with my husband and it was happy – windy, rainy, bitterly cold, foggy, sunny we had all weathers which makes us both happy.  Two small dogs and then just one, after Brian returned home, snootling and rootling and sniffing the air and the ground which is generally what makes a dog happy.  We would return to my mothers house after an hour or three soaked and muddy some days but we had a very contented time.  Except ….

Somewhere between  Wantage, once called Wanating and birthplace of King Alfred (he of the frazzled cakes) and Sparsholt we spied something on the fence ahead.  Moles.  I am very wed to moles.  I grew up in the village in Berkshire in which Kenneth Grahame lived the last 8 years of his life and he died there in 1932.  He attended the same school as my father in Oxford.  I, like so many children, grew up knowing and loving the anthropamorphasised animals he created. ‘The Wind in The Willows’ was read to me when I couldn’t read, then read and read and read when I could, and then again read to my own.  And Mole was my particular favourite – so thrilled with the world outside his dark tunnels, his portly little velvety form was one I longed to hug. I do understand that many find moles a nuisance.  They dig and they create earthmounds with positively ruthless efficiency and ruin many a lawn (that overwhelming obsession of the English, let’s not forget) and they don’t give a damn about crops in a field.  So long as the earth is brim full of worms they are happy chappies and will keep diggering on.  Actually here in Cantal I am convinced the moles are genetically modified – or at the very least pumping steroids … their mounds are immense!  We have them all over the right side of the lawn though oddly never the left.  The Bean is very keen to find one and is often found standing four square with nose poking down a hole in the top of a mound where the mole has come up out of his laberynth of tunnels early in the morning or at dusk.

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The thing about these moles though, in case you thought that they were some sort of genetic mutation that dwells above ground, the thing is that they were dead.  Hanging on the fence, tied with yellow binding.  To say the sight was gruesome is an understatement.  It was a sharp and frosty morning and everything had that eery beauty that comes when the only movement is the twinkling of the ice particles in the hazy sun trying to break through a shroud of cloud.  The moles too were frozen, their little black coats glinting with freezing moisture.  Stiff.  Cold.  Dead.  Unfortunately our Opinel (the ubiquitous knife in a huge variety of sizes, ours with a 4″ blade, that no Frenchman would be without) was in the car about 2 miles back so we couldn’t follow our hearts and at least cut the little creatures down and lay them somewhere dignified.  Out of sight of, incidentally, the many walkers, riders and particularly families with children who frequent the path.  I was disgusted.  Choked.  Angry actually.  For heavens sakes what is the point?  And yes, I do know that in days of yore the mole catcher would hang the moles as proof to the landowner of what he had earned and to ensure that he didn’t try and bill for same mole twice.  But this is 2015 (I think it was January 2nd) and I do not believe for one moment that any landowner now uses such feudal methods in fact I’m not convinced that there even are travelling mole catchers these days.  No – this was just some foul blood lusting individual or group who thought it would be clever to hang their barbaric catch out for all to see.  Or perhaps they were crass enough to think that they would put other moles off digging there … not understanding that they are blind. Before you shout me down – I actually found a thread on the internet that had me quite helpless … a thread about this very practice in which one person states that it is to put other moles off and another points out that they are blind.  Person one says ‘what – every single mole?  I don’t think so’ and the other patiently points out that they live underground.  Person one says ‘why?’ patience says ‘Because. They. Are. MOLES!’  As I live and breath it is entirely unbelievable.

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And now I am back home, because on reflection I know this is home and wherever my family are, they are always in my heart.  Here it is still hunting season – I have to be judicious when choosing my walks particularly at weekends because I don’t want to be shot.  And neither does The Bean.  The French have a reputation for shooting anything that moves but le chasse is strictly governed here.  And I live in an area far off the beaten track where undoubtedly folk could break the rules if they wanted to.  But they don’t.  The Ridgeway is a well walked path and I wish the Police success in catching the culprits of this heinous act if they so wish.  I know they try to stamp out illegal hare coursing but The Law says that you can only prosecute if you catch the perpetrators red handed.  Not for the first time in my life, I fear that The Law is an ass.

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Presumably this was aimed at the moles ….

 PS:  The following day we walked from Sparsholt to Uffington.  The White Horse here is the oldest chalk horse carved into a hillside in Britain and there is Dragon Hill which, legend has it and I like to believe is actually the body of the dragon slain by George himself.  And there is Uffington Castle … an iron-age hillfort.  We walked around it and I was heartened to see that the moles had invaded and clearly conquered the castle.  Sweet victory to the little men in black velvet as they diggory diggory delvet according to Beatrix Potter in Apply Dapply’s nursery rhymes from whence the title comes.